In this episode, we’ll discuss the life and work of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The wildly popular Jazz Age poet ventured fearlessly beyond traditional poetic subjects to tackle political injustice, social discrimination, and female sexuality in her bestselling books, beginning with Renascence and Other Poems in 1917. The first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, she was a spokesperson for personal freedom in 1920s America, particularly for women, with lines that illuminate the social history of the period and the Bohemian lifestyle she and her friends enjoyed. Today the story of Millay’s passionate life—together with her poems, plays, essays, short stories and songs—resonates with modern readers who recognize Millay as a woman far ahead of her time. Learn more from the Millay Society here.
For this episode we are pleased to discuss the groundbreaking influence of Millay with scholars Timothy Jackson and Holly Peppe. Jackson is the editor of the recently released collection Into the World’s Great Heart: Selected Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay. And Peppe is Millay’s literary executor and editor of the Penguin Classics edition of Millay’s Early Poems. You can read their full bios below.
Tim and Holly are interviewed by Nate King, Digital Content Associate at the American Writers Museum. This conversation originally took place October 17th, 2023 and was recorded over Zoom.
Edna St. Vincent Millay holds a sign in protest of the Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti. Photo courtesy of the Millay Society.
Tim Jackson, a native New Englander, is an associate professor of English at Rosemont College. Prior to editing Into the World’s Great Heart: Selected Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Yale UP, 2023), he edited Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Yale UP, 2016, paperback 2022).
Holly Peppe has been writing about Edna St. Vincent Millay since the 1980s, when she lived with the poet’s sister, then 92, at Millay’s former home in upstate NY while researching her dissertation. Her essays about Millay’s life and work appear in the Penguin Classics, Harper Perennial, and Yale University Press editions of Millay’s selected poems, personal diaries and letters. She is also co-author of two Scholastic YA books and memoir of Eve Branson, mother of the colorful British entrepreneur. Peppe’s own poetry, prose, and translations appear in various books and publications.